Malaysian diplomat compares Penan to zoo animals

Bruno Manser Fund calls for the resignation of the Malaysian High Commissioner to the UK over racist remarks

(LONDON, UK) The Bruno Manser Fund, a charitable organisation based in Switzerland, calls on the Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Zakaria Sulong, to resign over racist remarks against the Penan, an indigenous community in Sarawak. In an interview with the Borneo Post, a newspaper owned by the Sarawak timber conglomerate KTS group, the diplomat compared the Penan community’s struggle for their native rights to other “petty issues” like animals in zoos.

“What we do is collect reports on all the good and bad things written or said about the country and send them back to Malaysia“, the diplomat said about his work in the UK. “Issues range from politics to petty issues like animals in zoos and the Penans in Sarawak“, the Borneo Post writes in today’s online edition. The diplomat complained about NGO reports on the Malaysian government’s malpractices and singled out the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) as “one of such NGOs actively involved in discrediting the Sarawak government in the UK“.

The Bruno Manser Fund is shocked by the racist tone of the Malaysian High Commissioner’s remarks. “How can this man claim to be representing Malaysia in the United Kingdom if he compares his own people to zoo animals?“, the Bruno Manser Fund wrote. “We are calling on the Malaysian Foreign Minister to replace Zakaria Sulong with immediate effect as he is obviously unfit for the post of High Commissioner to the UK.“

For three decades, the Penan, until recently South East Asia’s last nomadic hunter-gatherers, have peacefully struggled for their native rights and protested against the rampant destruction of the tropical forests of Malaysian Borneo. The Sarawak government under long-term Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud have consistently refused to grant them any rights over their traditional lands. Even well-documented reports about wide-spread sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by loggers failed to have any legal consequences whatsoever.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has systematically abused kickbacks from logging for his own personal benefit. Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that the Taib family is holding stakes in more than 400 companies in 25 countries and offhsore destinations, worth several billion US dollars. In a letter to the Malaysian Attorney-General, BMF had called for Malaysian authorities to arrest and prosecute Taib for corruption, abuse of public office and other charges. 

Read the Borneo Post article here: